Scot Peterson -- the school police officer whose appellation became “The Coward of Broward” after he refused to protect students in Parkland, Florida’s Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High while a killer murdered 17 people and wounded 17 others -- is in court right now, defending against a negligence suit brought by the parent of one of the deceased.
And, true to fashion for agents of the state, he just argued that he had no legal duty to go into that school and protect anyone.
The court case against Peterson is a negligence suit filed by Andrew Pollack, whose daughter, Meadow, was tragically killed in the shooting. Pollack said that it made no sense for the deputy to argue that he had no legal duty to go inside. ‘Then what is he doing there?’ Pollack said after the ruling. ‘He had a duty. I’m not going to let this go. My daughter, her death is not going to be in vain.’
Of course Peterson’s attorney, well-versed in the chicanery of the government took a different position:
Peterson’s attorney, Michael Piper disagreed. Piper acknowledged that while this argument for defense may seem offensive and outrageous, as a matter of law, the deputy had no legal duty to confront the shooter. ‘There is no legal duty that can be found,’ Piper said. ‘At its very worst, Scot Peterson is accused of being a coward. That does not equate to bad faith.’
As Matt Agorist notes, not only have agents of the state argued precisely this in the past, judges have given big thumbs-up to the idea that the government actually has no duty or responsibility to protect anything other than itself.
The most prominent case appeared in the D.C. Court of Appeals. It was called “Warren v. District of Columbia,” and was decided in 1981 in favor of the government – in favor of the concept that, although philosophers from Thomas Hobbes to John Locke have claimed the state was created to protect people and their rights, and although millions of Americans are lied to on a daily basis with the canard that the state exists to protect citizens, the reality is just the opposite.
You, the subject, exist to protect and fund the state, and its agents have no duty to protect you at all.
The details of the cruel and horrible double-kidnapping case, in which the victims repeatedly contacted police for help yet received absolutely none, are so foul that, though one does not want to do a disservice to the victims, I will leave further investigation to the reader. But the outcome is pertinent to the “Coward of Broward” and to us taxpaying citizens who might be fooled into imagining that police are supposed to protect anyone other than the government. Agorist spells it out:
The leading case on the topic is Warren v. District of Columbia, 444 A.2d 1 (D.C. Ct. of Ap., 1981) when the Court stated that the ‘fundamental principle of American law is that a government and its agents are under no general duty to provide public services, such as police protection, to any individual citizen.’
Agorist also notes that this case relied on an earlier Surpreme Court precedent from the vile FDR era:
On top of this case is another from the Supreme Court dating back to the 1930’s which established the guidelines for federal government protection of citizens. In short, there is none.
And, as I’ve noted previously, police officers will tell you that they usually don’t prevent crimes. Statistically, they arrive after crimes have occurred and people have called for help. The average response time for police to arrive and offer help upon the report of a violent crime is 10 minutes.
The only instance in which police were found to have a “duty” to protect people came when a court found that cops had to protect prisoners who were actually in their custody. Agorist explains:
In the case of DeShaney v. Winnebago County Department of Social Services (109 S.Ct. 998, 1989; 489 U.S. 189 (1989)), the court in DeShaney held that no duty arose as a result of a ‘special relationship,’ concluding that Constitutional duties of care and protection only exist as to certain individuals, such as incarcerated prisoners, involuntarily committed mental patients and others restrained against their will and therefore unable to protect themselves.
Credit to Broward County Circuit Judge Patti Englander Henning for being one of the few in robes to not only appear shocked by this defense brought by Peterson and his attorney, but for turning away from precedent and dismissing the defense, allowing the suit to proceed.
But, despite her allowing Peterson to answer to the father of the deceased, it is unlikely a victory for the dead will be upheld in higher court. Unless one considers the fact that, indeed, kids stuck in government-run schools are prisoners, as are the people paying the taxes to support said system, higher courts will likely stand on previous precedents, and absolve Peterson and Broward County of any responsibility or negligence.
This is worth remembering.